A Texan in Alaska, today’s staff spotlight is Andrew Smith!
Sea kayak guide by day, mailman by night, today’s staff spot is none other than our very own Russ White!
She’s from Connecticut…but now calls Alaska her summer home…meet Seward’s best hugger Emma!
"Getting the wood stove going takes little more than fire making skills, and some dry split locally harvested timber... By the evening nearly everything is ready to come out, and returned bone dry to the Yak Shack."
Meet McKenzie! McKenzie is a fire spinning fermenting wizard that can ski. Or so she tells us. While most of our guides come from all over the lower 48 states looking for adventure, McKenzie is the rare breed that is actually from Alaska! Growing up in Anchorage she was privileged to have spent many years in this great state and decided to move to Seward for the summer and guide with Sunny Cove. McKenzie is a first year guide with tons of Alaskan knowledge and if you are into plants and flowers, she's the guide for you! We were excited to bring McKenzie on board and please continue reading below to learn more about this wonderful new addition to Sunny Cove!
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska!
Favorite Food: It's a tie between salmon and coconut ice cream. (But not combined)
Favorite TV Show: Game of Thrones
Favorite Book: Either the Anarchist's Cookbook or Plants of the Pacific Northwest
Favorite Sport: Besides sea kayaking?! Backcountry skiing!!!
Favorite Animal: Caribou
Certifications/Degrees: Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ethnobotany, Wilderness First Responder, CPR, AIARE 1 (Avalanche Training)
Number one item of bucket list: I want to take an underwater photography/diving course.
Best Life Experience: I had a stint at a tiki bar on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Every night I got to watch the sunset over the bay and during the day I got to go swimming, kayaking, fishing, and ate copious amounts of mangoes and rum. It was really amazing there and I am planning a return trip.
Best Alaskan Experience: As a child my mom used to take me out in the winter so that we could look for northern lights. I would get all bundled up and curl up in my sleeping bag amidst the snow watching the sky for that magical flickering. I always fell asleep before I saw the lights but getting to stay up late watching the sky with my mom is one of my favorite memories.
Why I love to guide: I love to show people my home and the amazing wilderness that still exists in the world. Plus I enjoy the dynamic challenge that each day can bring!
Random fact: I love teaching people about edible foods, foraging, and fermentation.
Personal Statement: Instead of a personal statement, let me tell you my perfect date. Let's go on an adventure, whether that be sea kayaking, skiing, or whatever else we can come up with that is active and that doesn't cost a lot of money. After that let's make food and celebrate being alive. Badda Bing Badda Boom. Party on Wayne.
Over the course of a 4-day sea kayaking expedition in Aialik Fjord the Sunny Cove staff and owner practiced, trained, refined and enjoyed subjects such as birding, mammalogy, glaciology, geology, plant identification, group management, paddling technique, leadership styles, and seamanship.
After departing from the Seward Harbor via the Alaska Wildland Adventures (AWA) water taxi fittingly named the Weather or Knot, the Sunny Cove guides breathed a collective sigh of relief as we knew then, we were departing civilization with only the belongings we had with us on the boat, there was no longer the need to triple check the presence of each piece of gear. We were now headed out to the wilderness of Kenai Fjords National Park with only the modern sea kayaking equipment necessary for a 4-day paddling adventure and the communal atmosphere of the recently reunited Sunny Cove staff. Motoring across the calm waters of Resurrection Bay we viewed sea otters, seals, and sea lions. Once we reached the Harding Gateway at the mouth of Resurrection Bay we spotted our first whale spouts including an elusive gray whale migrating past the fjord on its way from Baja California Sur to feed on the rich marine abundance of the Bering Sea, the longest known migration of any mammal. The majority of guides had seen gray whales before in the lower 48, where they spend a significant portion of time near-shore, but seeing a gray whale above 60 degrees North in Alaska was a special treat.
We were dropped off at McMullen Cove and we packed our kayaks with a quickly rising tide. We pushed off just as the tide was beginning to touch the bows of our kayaks and paddled through the peaceful, serene, and drizzly McMullen Cove, passed a handful of lively waterfalls on the way to our lunch destination- Quicksand Cove.
After a feasting on a delicious sandwich spread we launched and paddled north with our hearts set on reaching the 6-mile Holgate Arm of Aialik Fjord to view the magnificent tidewater face of Holgate Glacier. Paddling out of Quicksand Cove we spied mountain goats lazily munching new spring growth whilst precariously perched on unimaginably steep hillsides, and the sound of humpback whale spouts to our aft reminded us of our love for the ocean and all its' inhabitants. Before we reached the Holgate Arm we were pleasantly interrupted by one of the most unique wildlife gatherings many of us had ever seen.
As we rounded a small rocky point, we spotted from a distance the familiar white head of a bald eagle, except very unusually there were two sitting right next to each other well within their 6 foot wingspan. Having an enormous human-sized wingspan creates both a difficult landing and take-off in dense spruce foliage, especially within 6 inches of another already perched eagle. The 14 guides on the trip were already marveling at the two eagles perched so delicately next to each other when a plump black bear poked its' head out from behind the same spruce tree and paying us little attention as we paddled by. This unique wildlife combo was likely the most American thing that any of us had ever seen!
After nearly fulfilling (never quite possible ;)) our fix of paddling, and wildlife viewing we made camp above the tideline on the north side of the Holgate Arm where we filled our bellies with local salmon and quinoa, then laid our heads to rest to the sound of a steady drizzle pitter pattering the outside of our tents and the Holgate Glacier rumbling with calving ice just a short paddle away, with the thought of tomorrows adventure gently seducing us to sleep.